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20 sculptures to convey beauty tinged by tragedy

Butterfly art will pay homage to Holocaust victims and go toward ensuring that modern generations don't turn a blind eye toward genocide.

Published November 27, 2005

PALM HARBOR - Sculptor David Kracov's work is usually filled with lighthearted, familiar characters like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.

But for one recent project, his inspiration was decidedly more serious.

Kracov is one of 21 Tampa Bay artists who are creating 20 butterfly-themed sculptures for Butterflies of Hope, a collaboration of the Outdoor Arts Foundation, the Florida Holocaust Museum and Westfield shopping malls.

The project, meant to raise public awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, conveys beauty, but the sort that is fragile and tinged with tragedy.

"I had to keep taking breaks," Kracov said of the 10 weeks he spent on the project. His project, made of polymer clay, depicts hundreds of butterflies escaping from a train boxcar.

Each of the butterflies represents 1,893 children killed in the Holocaust, he said.

"The number of children who died is inconceivable," Kracov said.

Kracov said he is licensed to create characters for Disney and Warner Bros. He incorporated some of the companies' familiar characters into his piece. The characters stand with their heads bowed as a cloud of butterflies soar toward freedom.

All of the artwork will eventually be auctioned off to benefit the Florida Holocaust Museum, in St. Petersburg, and the Outdoor Arts Foundation.

A symbol of hope and freedom, the butterfly is particularly significant for the museum as it prepares for its gala, "To Life, To Children, To Hope," early next year.

"We want to honor the 1.5-million children of the Holocaust as well as the children of modern-day genocide," said Shelly Mizrahi, director of marketing and communications at the museum.

The project aims to teach children tolerance, diversity and the inherent worth of humans through education about the Holocaust.

For the project, some of the bay area's most celebrated artists were invited to either create an original butterfly sculpture or use a precut wooden butterfly as a canvas. The finished butterflies represent a wide variety of styles and media.

The project has been an emotional experience for Tampa artist Mary Frankle, who is creating a butterfly in honor of her husband's parents, who were Holocaust survivors.

"It's mind-boggling what my in-laws went through at such a young age," she said.

The piece will have a collage of photos of her in-laws' relatives who perished in the Holocaust. She was especially eager to pay tribute to her mother-in-law, who died recently.

"It is a gift from God to me that I'm able to create this," she said, "so that her story is not lost and so her suffering is not forgotten."

[Last modified November 27, 2005, 01:18:21]

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